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Consumers Expectations For Brand Leadership Has Changed

Jacob Steinfield, Assistant Account Executive
May 7, 2020

An acronym soup for breakfast: COVID, WCS, and KPIs

It does not look like our distancing days are going to go anywhere soon, but even when mobility comes back – and we rise dramatically from the couch – consumer relationships with brands will have been transformed.

There's some debate over habit-forming timelines. Conventionally, 21 days was the magic number needed for permanent changes to occur (based on research published in Maxwell Maltz's 1960 bestseller Psycho-Cybernetics), but more contemporary researchers have found the length closer to 66 days. Either way, our COVID journey will certainly surpass both, and we have undoubtedly developed new attitudes and conditions that will remain as the world slides back into normalcy.

This is especially true in consumer expectations for brands as embedded community leaders, given the instantaneous pivot to solemn commitments to employees & customers in response to this emergency. There is a new standard for purpose from these entities: The uncountable statements of “togetherness” and ventures for collective healing will not be allowed to merely dissipate in the post-COVID era (which will not be such a binary distinction either). Learning from those who have delivered effectively and creatively in these conditions (see Light, Coors) will be imperative as consumers are more inclined than ever to use their buying power on companies whose actions and values align with their own – and uncommitted to companies who merely shouted for everyone to remember they existed. As Adweek reports from social psychologist Hillary Haley, “[People] don’t just want to be helped, they want to provide help themselves, and they’ll reward brands that act as facilitators.”

Take Spotify for example. This week, they launched their Music Relief project, with a new Artist Fundraising feature that gives listeners the option to donate to their favorite artist directly or a relief initiative of their choice. Donations will be matched by Spotify up to $10M, and users are given immense freedom to provide much-needed support.

Spotify

During this time, our client Eastern Bank has also successfully delivered on the values of their long-standing Join Us For Good brand campaign. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, they have pledged $10 million in aid to those most affected, became founding donors and administrators for the $25 million Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund, and provided pathways for people to join them in giving efforts along the way. The brand has deep roots in local volunteering and service, with this additional leadership making it clear that commitment to their communities is not new or temporary, but endemic to their brand’s DNA. 

Brands & marketers must consequently re-calibrate the levers they use to turn communication and brand identity into desired outcomes.

This brings us to an important consonant jumble: WCS – What Constitutes Success?

Achieving a quantifiable level of success is not a new challenge in the advertising space. The rise of digital marketing made the wide world of impact measurement a much more complicated game. Near infinite opportunities for companies to connect with people, ever-consuming throughout their day, creates a dizzying array of data points to synthesize. No longer is a sales lift or focus group – both limited by bias – the only ways to measure effects. We can see the resonance in real-time with brand recall and changes in buyer habits, and instantly tinker, AB test, and iterate. This can, however, restrict the horizon of our improvement targets in the endless pursuit of immediate incremental benefit. It is important to take a step back from your anchored campaign norms to identify larger potential opportunities, especially as messaging expectations change.  

Customers are less motivated than ever by undiluted sales pitches or vague statements of pandemic camaraderie, growingly conditioned against them, and capable of tuning out through ad blockers and nearby alternative devices. Attention needs to be truly earned, and people react positively and strongly to premises that are relevant, important, and authentic to them – especially when those messages are tied to action beyond the advertising or purely-commercial realm.  

As The Atlantic’s Amanda Mull reports, “[Leadership] vacuums have often been filled by brands that see social issues as an opportunity to connect with customers — especially younger ones, who want to believe that there’s a right way to spend their money.” While it may be challenging in our current circumstances to rationalize, brands are on the right track trying to compel outcomes that benefit society. In fact, consumers have growingly defined brands themselves by their social practices and philanthropic priorities.

Cooperation opportunities are key for marketers to validate brands as forces of communal good, but there is a huge opportunity and need for brands to give more direction in achieving such results. While hope and community belonging are fabulous intentions, the onslaught of purpose-based messaging inundating our timelines and networks with solemn background music often do not give specific, convincing instruction to achieve these goals. This is where marrying commonly-shared desired outcomes to internal metrics of improvement can create business objectives that are sincerely important to the customer – like the aforementioned Coors activation. Coors raised spirits with a unifying metric of donating 500,000 beers, while also focusing on definitive financial impressions by contributing all merchandise profits to COVID relief efforts. 

Cause-based marketing may pose difficult questions for ROI, but we can use our skills in translating data-driven insights to make cause-related messages as productive as our commerce-related ones. 

To do so, marketers must re-define their KPIs – Key Performance Indicators

Good marketers understand that true ROI is based on the lifetime value of your relationship with the customer, and the positive externalities that being in their network entails. To achieve such fruitful relationships, marketing initiatives must find a compelling way to demonstrate not just shared values, but a common purpose, all while facilitating ways to connect the two. Consumers understand that advertising is aimed to drive action, and when that action is one they consider worthy, it creates an association of aligned incentives.

Considering the enormous challenges in global health, environmental protection, and human rights, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who wouldn’t be compelled to think favorably of a campaign intentionally designed to improve these worthy outcomes. Converting favorable perception into action can be a difficult task, but brands can ignite such behavior by communicating KPIs that are meaningful to both the company and consumer. 

Conveying a measurable definition of success for your civic engagement program helps alleviate public concern about motives. Non-monetary KPIs can also be constructive, such as donated cans of non-perishables, volunteer hours, or shelters built. These not only create attainable goals, but valuable bonds for the company and consumers to work together toward. 

To build this new type of relationship with customers, brands often partner with philanthropic organizations that have endemic popular trust. It’s a form of assuaging concerns about the integrity of their efforts. However, with hundreds of brands flooding the market with cookie-cutter COVID-19 responses, such partnerships alone cannot galvanize when consumer individuality is not recognized. Advertising is often powerful because it speaks directly to a specific need, but when a sea-of-sameness permeates throughout, that influence dissipates.

Whatmomslove

To break this mold, AMP helped its client GIANT Food Stores launch the national #MoreForAll campaign, aimed to mitigate panic shopping by spreading direct, actionable instructions and driving awareness through digital conversations. Across media platforms, and with influencer help, local individuals instructed followers on ways to extend the life of their produce and urged them to be considerate of their peers. AMP was able to measure overwhelmingly positive sentiment and engagement, the topic clearly resonating with followers, and GIANT was able to see definitive reductions in over-buying.

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Even when the COVID-19 era subsides, there is a heightened expectation and opportunity for companies to continue to support communities. Large organizations can use their scale and connections to create value beyond their immediate spheres of influence, and engrain themselves positively into the public consciousness. When normalcy returns, brands should look at the successes of these charitable causes moving forward, and see that ROI can be earned and sustained with marketing that optimizes its positive impact on consumers’ daily lives. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Brands are increasingly defined by their conduct as community leaders and responses to social needs
  2. Leading firms are developing stronger relationships with consumers by empowering buyers to make a philanthropic difference with their spending
  3. Cause-marketing is most effective when campaign KPIs are also pertinent to consumer ideals, and messaging clearly illustrates how specific actions by both parties can catalyze an outcome that is mutually rewarding.

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Google Search Trends Insights May 2020

In our continuing series of examining Google Search Trends to gain insights into the top keywords queried in the USA, we present our findings for May 2020. Every day, we capture the top three keyword phrases in terms of search volume as reported by Google Trends (US Only). Each term has an estimated query volume attached to it, which we also record. The number scale tops out at 10,000,000+ with a lower limit of 200,000+. After the conclusion of the month, we look at the phrases we collected along with their volumes to get an understanding of what drove queries for the month. Before We Begin This month’s article is difficult to write. When we started this project, we were trying to mine the top searched terms for marketing insights to share on our blog. April 2020 had some light moments, and the holidays that occurred in May 2020 did drive many search terms that we will outline below. But before we discuss Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s Day, we’d like to acknowledge that this month is different. Important topics related to racial injustice and inequality predominantly drove queries in May. So along with those keywords, we’re going to share a resource that Google put together to continue to provide users with information on these topics.  May Holiday Trends The first keyword phrase on our list that fell in the Holiday category is “Teacher Appreciation Week.” Teacher Appreciation Week - 5/3/2020 - 10,000,000+ queries Looking at the 5 year trend for this phrase, you can see that search interest surged in 2020. We think this year’s spike was powered by two main factors:  1) Google changed their logo to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week on May 3rd as a part of their Google Doodle program. 2) The pandemic has taught us all how important our teachers are, especially the parents who have been helping their kids learn from home.  While we may not see as much of a jump next year, marketers can add the week of May 3 - 7, 2021 to their calendars as a prime gift-giving time period.  The second holiday phrase from our list is “Cinco de Mayo.” Cinco de Mayo - May 4th - 2,000,000+ queries Looking at the chart, the query volume is up from last year, but lower than a peak in 2017. The holiday has been criticized in recent years, as the promotion of the date started as an earnest show of patriotism but has transitioned to be a chiefly corporate celebration. Even without a pandemic, we wonder if the popularity of this holiday will continue to dwindle as the public’s attitude on the true nature of the celebration changes. The next holiday on our list is “Mother’s Day”, which appeared many times on our list. Mother's Day 2020 - 5/2/2020 - 1,000,000+ queries  Happy Mother's Day - 5/8/2020 - 1,000,000+ queries Happy Mother's Day - 5/9/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Happy Mother's Day Images - 5/9/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Mother's Day - 5/10/2020 - 500,000+ queries This year, Mother’s Day was a multiple-day event with many queries occurring on the days that led up to the holiday. We do appreciate that there was a spike in queries the week before the holiday. We’re pretty sure people were checking to make sure they didn’t miss celebrating with the moms in their lives. Beyond that, the “images” query on the 9th is intriguing, as it appears that people were looking for visuals to wish someone a Happy Mother’s Day in lieu of a traditional printed card.  We thought that this query was driven by our new behavior due to the pandemic. When you may not want to go to a traditional store to browse cards, the solution could be to make your own at home. From the chart above, this phrase has had enough volume to be measured from May 2012 now. With its highest volume this year, this trend could be an indication that pandemic-driven behavior shifts may affect sales in the printed card industry for future holidays. Lastly, “Memorial Day” was a popular holiday phrase on our list. Memorial Day - 5/24/2020 - 10,000,000+ queries 2020 saw the biggest query volume for this holiday not only over the past 5 years, but also... ...the last 16 years. This slight boost over last year and 2016 could be driven by COVID-19, as people were searching for information related to the holiday. Marketers should note that this holiday has been gaining query volume since 2004 and should be a factor they consider in their plans for the year. Protests for Racial Equality and Justice‬‬ In May 2020, there were many queries that were related to the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, as well as the protests that followed.   Ahmaud Arbery - 5/5/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Ahmaud Arbery - 5/6/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Ahmaud Arbery - 5/7/2020 - 200,000+ queries George Floyd - 5/26/2020 - 5,000,000+ queries Minneapolis - 5/27/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Minneapolis news - 5/27/2020 - 1,000,000+ queries Minneapolis riots - 5/27/2020 - 1,000,000+ queries Tim Walz - 5/28/2020 - 500,000+ queries Derek Chauvin - 5/29/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Protests - 5/30/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries From a purely analytical standpoint, the query volumes of these searches indicate that the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, as well as the world’s reactions to them, held great importance among the general public in May 2020. In the past, that’s the only takeaway we would share, as our primary goal of this blog was to merely report phrases, dates and query volumes as a record of how searches progressed over time.  But the queries on this list cannot – and should not – be viewed or discussed solely through an analytic lens. Because not only do these queries represent the murders of two men, but the systemic racism, oppression and racial violence against Black people that remains prevalent in our country today.  We at AMP Agency have been deeply affected by these events and stand in full support of the Black Lives Matter movement. As we continue to listen, to examine ourselves and our actions, and to do the work we need to do, we want to make it clear that any tool that helps us learn more about how we can end racial inequality is one we wholeheartedly support.  That being said, Google itself has understood the importance of this subject and has provided this helpful resource to bring greater focus to the queries related to these society-changing topics. Along with compiling keyword queries related to protests for racial equity and justice‬‬, this resource includes many different insightful visualizations and data segments that provide information as users search for answers on Google.  Thanks for reading. Until next month.

AMP Agency’s Commitments To Anti-Racism, Within Our Walls and Beyond

We want to acknowledge our silence on social media these last few weeks. Like many in the industry, we took time to listen to BIPOC voices and discuss our role in systemic racism as an agency, but also to make concrete, action-oriented commitments to anti-racism at AMP. We’d like to share those commitments today—as a start, not a final solution. To our friends in advertising, we call on you to join us. Let’s continue to listen, but more importantly, to act, continuously and with purpose, to make our industry a better place to work for everyone.  As advertisers, we’re in a unique position to reach wide audiences, to tell stories and uplift voices, to help shape culture. That’s a lot of power. It’s time we used that power to implement policies and practices that are actively anti-racist and work to make advertising an equitable industry. At AMP, our internal conversations have focused around our BIPOC  teammates and how we can better support them, and also our role in the wider advertising ecosystem. We’ve brainstormed around how we can update recruiting to bring more BIPOC into advertising, and how we can be better citizens in the communities where we do business. These are the initial commitments we’ve made as an agency to help put our reflection and conversation into action: Evolve Our Operating Plan Moving forward, we will dedicate 10% of our agency billable time to do work for Black and Latinx owned businesses, at no cost and as an evolution of our existing pro-bono work. By putting tangible resources back into the local communities where we live and work, we can help these businesses grow and thrive—and contribute to long term change.  Change How We Recruit Our internship program will become an apprenticeship program. To help bring more Black talent to the industry at large, we will partner with established nonprofits to develop an apprenticeship program and offer hands-on, paid training to young talent who may not otherwise have access to launch their career in digital advertising. Furthermore, we fully acknowledge that BIPOC are under-represented in director and above positions at AMP. Our HR & Talent team is developing new recruiting practices to bring in more diverse talent across all seniority levels, not just at the entry level, so that diverse perspectives are represented in our leadership, too. Establish an Internal DE&I Team We’re creating a formalized diversity, equity, and inclusion team to establish workflows for diversity- and inclusion-centered projects, develop concrete timelines, lead future initiatives, and keep AMP accountable. We’ve already accepted internal applications for a leader to help build out this committee and will make a formal selection in the coming weeks. Join ANA’s Commitment to Equality, Inclusion, & Systemic Change We co-signed and joined in with ANA’s industry-wide initiative, pledging to achieve stronger diverse representation in our industry, increase spending in multicultural marketing, demand accuracy of multicultural and inclusive data, and work to achieve an equitable creative supply chain.  Invest in Implicit Bias and Anti-Racist Training We’ll be providing extensive bias training to Human Resources leadership and AMP executives/management to understand implicit bias and promote anti-racist values from the top down. Our HR leadership has already compiled and assigned informal anti-bias training for AMP employees at all levels—we invite you to take the Harvard Implicit Association Test along with us. Do the Work for the Long Term There’s so much more that must be done, so there must be more to come. We’ll dedicate more of our social feeds to talking about anti-racism in advertising, and keep everyone posted on our progress on increasing diverse and inclusive representation at AMP. This may be the first time you’re hearing from us on the subject of anti-racism, but we can promise it will not be the last.

COVID-Driven Habit Shifts Provide Marketing Opportunities

  The entire US market is going through a routine-shifting life event due to COVID-19, creating space for smart marketers to meet new consumer needs in unexpected industries. Research has long told us that old habits die hard. This is an evolutionary benefit - when we internalize actions into habit we go on auto-pilot, saving valuable brain space for greater cognitive tasks. Doing the same daily routines, buying the same brands over and over frees us from constant analysis paralysis. It’s also a huge challenge for marketers trying to nudge people towards new behaviors like, say, buying their product.  But there are some circumstances in a person’s life when a confluence of events rock old routines so radically that, for a short window, they’re susceptible to change. These moments are rare, and require major shifts in circumstances or environment usually driven by the upheaval of a major life event. Think: Moving. Marriage. Having a baby. A pandemic with widespread national quarantine.  Over the last 70+ days, Americans have been plunged into this kind of major life event all at once. The majority of us have had to drastically shift our routines as we’ve sheltered in place, no longer commuting, doing school pick-up, going to social gatherings. As the country begins to loosen restrictions, some will revert back into old comfortable routines. But after over 66 days in quarantine - the average time it takes to form a new habit - some of these new routines will have stuck.  This mass habit shift has huge cultural implications as many of our societal norms are morphing at warp speed. And while the economy has been hit hard, it also opens up a unique window for some brands and businesses to thrive. We’ve already seen this with streaming services, online gaming, grocery delivery, telehealth, and personal protective equipment - industries that have seen growth and will be poised for more post-pandemic. But there are some less obvious behavior shifts taking place that brands can act on now.   MORNING ROUTINES The habit: At-Home Coffee and Breakfast Before the pandemic, 41% of consumers bought coffee at least once a week at a coffee shop, with 15% going daily, according to Statista. On-the-go breakfast options reigned supreme as people rushed out of the house in the morning - according to the NPD Group, Consumer spending on QSR breakfast items in 2019 was up 31% from five years previously, driven largely by convenience, with a third of consumers ages 18-34 eating weekday breakfasts en route to another location. But with stay-at-home orders in place across the country, these habits are being completely re-written. Just one look at Instagram or TikTok will show how many are experimenting with new at-home coffee routines - posts featuring #QuarantineCoffee and #CoffeeAtHome have gained traction, along with users trying new recipes and formats (Raise your hand if you tried #WhippedCoffee, the trend driving over 1.9B - yes, billion - views on TikTok.) While elaborate recipes like Dalgona may not become everyone’s long-term routine, as more people settle in to working remotely the daily coffee shop run may be a habit of the past.Brands that can meet the need:  Coffee and breakfast CPG brands that reach consumers now can become part of long term morning routines. QSR brands that lean into at-home product innovation and promotion now will be ahead of the game post-pandemic.    WORK ROUTINES The Habit: Working from a home office According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, before the pandemic about 7% of people worked from home some or all of the time. Now, everyone who can work remotely is - an estimated 56% of the population according to Global Workplace Analytics. Of course, “working from home” is not just one habit - routines ranging from your morning commute, wake-up time, and what you’re eating for lunch are all dictated by where you work. Work location in general is a major routine driver, but let’s think about it through the lens of the small physical place you inhabit while working. At first consumers were experimenting with working from different places around the house, but as time goes on workers are finding their go-to spot and looking to optimize their space - a place they spend 8+ hours sitting while trying to concentrate and collaborate each day. Businesses that can meet the need: Brands that can help people support new work habits and create productive, comfortable work spaces will win. Yes, Staples should be excited right now. But brands with products like noise-cancelling headsets, home office furniture, video conferencing hardware, or even architects and contracting services can find opportunity in this new consumer behavior. By leaning into advertising and targeting those with remote-friendly jobs, these brands can build momentum as people settle into their new home offices.    EXERCISING +  SOCIAL ROUTINES The Habit: Daily Outdoor Recreation  In the market for a bicycle this summer? Good luck! If you thought the toilet paper shortage was bad, just try to buy a bike. In March, nationwide sales of bicycles, equipment and repair services nearly doubled compared with the same period last year, according to the NPD Group, with big spikes in leisure, fitness, and children’s bikes. But this isn’t just about biking -  cities across the country have seen a surge in the number of people out walking and running, too. With gyms closed, some people have turned to online workouts - a new habit shift in itself. But many have rediscovered outdoor activities as both a fitness and social ritual. Each evening at 5:30pm in my own town, the once deserted streets are now packed with families on their nightly loop around the block.  Businesses that can meet the need: The outdoor industry, which was already seeing growth heading into the pandemic, has a huge opportunity to encourage and shape these new outdoor habits. Bike brands have already seen boosts, but smart outdoor travel operators and outdoor gear and apparel brands across the board can reap the benefits too. Positioning products as ideal for social distancing activities and leveraging tactics like influencers can help put products to the test, generate creative without studio shoots, and gain traction during the pandemic and beyond.  Check out the article on Little Black Book Online here: https://www.lbbonline.com/news/the-habit-opportunity-how-brands-can-adapt-to-consumers-shifting-routines